From the Pastor's Desk
The Blessing of Thankfulness
we're going to take a break from our look at the gospel of John. Instead, we're going to continue with our
celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday by looking at what we're going to call
the "blessing of thankfulness."
We're going to do that by reading Phil. 1:1-6. When Paul wrote this letter, it had been ten
years since he had last visited the city of Philippi. We find more details about his time in that
city in the book of Acts. Let's look at
wrote this letter to the church at Philippi.
His purpose was to express his heart-felt thanks for that church's
gracious support of his missionary efforts.
Paul had founded the church at Philippi on his second missionary
journey. He wrote this letter from Rome
in either 61 or 62 AD, sometime during his two years of imprisonment there.
church at Philippi was the first NT church founded by Paul in Europe. He had wanted to go into Asia and preach the
gospel, but the Holy Spirit would not permit him to do so. It was in this context that God gave Paul the
vision to go to Macedonia and help the people there.
personal correspondence is full of good, positive exhortations from Paul to the
people of this church. It is full of
thankfulness and joy especially. 19
different times in these four chapters the apostle mentions joy, rejoicing or
gladness. The recipients of this letter
needed these encouraging words. They had
been experiencing hardship and challenges in life and Paul is reminding them
that circumstances do not have to control them.
was the case so often with Paul during his missionary journeys, he suffered
much and experienced a life of hardship and difficulty on his way to
Philippi. But every time he thought of
them; every memory he had of what God had done in their lives spiritually,
brought a response of thanks from his heart to God. The very remembrance of all God had done for
them overwhelmed him with joy. Seeing
souls saved in that community more than compensated for what Paul had endured
to get the gospel to them.
Apostle Paul begins this letter as he began all of his letters: by identifying himself as the writer. But he doesn't simply identify himself; he
also mentions Timothy. We have no idea
what role Timothy may or may not have played in helping Paul write to this
church. Maybe he helped Paul, maybe he
didn't, we don't know. But Paul still
includes him in the opening remarks because they were serving in ministry
only does Paul mention Timothy in his opening, notice how he describes and
refers to his young pastor friend. He
treats Timothy as a spiritual and ministry equal. At this point in time, Paul is a veteran
missionary statesman; Timothy was just a novice beginning to preach. It would have been easy, natural even, for
Paul to relegate Timothy to a lesser position of importance. But Paul doesn't do that. He shows no distinction whatsoever between
the two men and even refers to Timothy as a co-slave for the work of Christ's
term Paul uses here in verse 1 to refer to he and Timothy is
"slaves." It could also be
translated "bondservants." The
word means "one bound to another."
The kind of servitude expressed here is not at all like the slavery we
are familiar with in the Deep South during former times of our nation's
history. This kind of servitude is a
voluntary act of complete surrender to one's master on the grounds of
enters our lives and implants new life into a believer's heart as a result of
His work of forgiveness and salvation.
His work for us is entirely an act of His grace and an expression of His
great love for us. God's agape love,
unconditional love, sacrificial love is beyond our comprehension. He went to great lengths and at great cost
and sacrifice to Himself and Jesus to provide us with forgiveness of our sins
and salvation for our souls. The basis
of all that God does towards us is love.
should also describe us as His followers.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, what we do and how we live should
be based upon and motivated by our love for God. The follower of Jesus should be willing to
surrender all his rights and privileges to the Father's will. We don't surrender or submit ourselves to Him
because we're forced to or have to: we
should do it out of love for Him and as an expression of gratitude for what
He's done for us.
look at Ps. 40:8. "I delight to do
your will, my God." King David is
the writer of this psalm. That is quite
a statement that he makes in verse 8: I
delight to do your will. David took
great joy and found great delight in seeking God; in knowing God's Word; in
doing God's will. He took great delight
in obeying all that God was commanding him to do.
happiest person in the world is the one who in the true sense of the word is a
servant of Jesus Christ. God is our
master. He is our owner. He bought us and paid for us so we belong to
Him in all of the good ways of what that means.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that we are a temple of the Holy
Spirit. Therefore, we need to glorify
God in our bodies. One of the key ways
that we glorify God is through complete submission to Him and His Word as His
well-known missionary Hudson Taylor once said, "Let us give up our work,
our thoughts, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence
and our all, right into God's hand.
Then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for
us to be troubled about or to make trouble about."
you honestly say in your heart right now that you've done that? Have you given your all into God's hand? Or are you still holding onto some things,
wanting to exert a certain sense or aspect of control over your life? What's holding you back from giving your all
to God? What's keeping you from being
the man or woman of God that He intends you to be? Are there things in your life that you're
allowing to trouble you? Are there areas
where you're causing trouble? Let it all
go. Give Him control. Submit to His lordship over your life and
live as the bondservants you were created to be.
it hasn't been made clear yet, let's make sure that it is now: we are not just slaves; we are slaves to
Jesus Christ. As Christians, we belong
to Him. I hope that for most of you, if
not all of you, that is sort of a "duh" statement. But I'm not convinced that everyone sees that
the way they should. What it means to be
a slave to Jesus is that our lives are set apart for God; we are set apart to
Him. We are exclusively His and belong
to no one or nothing else.
way of saying this is that we are called.
Jesus has a certain calling for our lives. For instance, I'm called to be the pastor of
this church. Brenda and Gae have been
gifted with musical skills and they are called to be a part of our church's
music ministry. John, Dennis and Ron are
called to be deacons. We have folks
called to teach Sunday School; people who are called to work in the nursery, to
lead the youth group. We aren't all
called to do everything, but we all have something that we can do to help
expand God's Kingdom here in Baxter.
was writing this letter to some folks who lived in the city of Philippi. That is where they lived and that is where
they needed to focus their lives and their ministry. It's important for us all to understand that
we need to live for Jesus where we are.
We could put it another way: grow
where you're planted. That's a favorite
saying among pastors. Instead of always
looking for the next church or the next ministry, stay where you are and do
applies to all of us. We need to stay
where we are; do what we are doing; and do the best we can, until and unless
God is calling us to do something else or to go somewhere else. We tend to seek out and look for God's will
for our lives as if that is some grandiose thing somewhere else and not what
we're currently doing or where we're currently at.
until God comes along and reveals His will for you to do something else with
your life, just keep doing what you're doing where you're doing it. God will let you know if there is a change or
a move in store for you. If there is, then
you need to go and obey as quickly as you can.
But in the meantime, keep serving, keep loving, keep ministering, keep
witnessing where you are.
as he always does, Paul offers the people who were going to be reading this
letter a prayer of grace and peace.
Grace is the unmerited favor of God; God's riches at Christ's expense. Grace is God giving us what we do not
deserve. It is His enabling power as an
inward resource in our life.
also desires peace for this letter's recipients. Because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross
and His resurrection from the dead, we have peace with God through His
salvation and forgiveness. We are no
longer His enemies; Christ has brought us into a personal relationship with
of that peace, we can also have peace with one another and peace within
ourselves. Peace is that calm inner
assurance of protection and provision from God, regardless of how bad our
outward circumstances may seem. The
peace that God grants us surpasses all human understanding; it doesn't make
sense to us at all.
we move on past verse 2, we see the blessing of thankfulness. (vv. 3-4).
Right away Paul mentions his thankfulness for the people of the church
at Philippi. The word for thank that is found
in this verse is a word that we are all familiar with. No surprises or deep meanings to this word
that we don't already know. Thank is
simply defined as expressing gratitude.
specifically, Paul is expressing his thanks for past ministries. (v. 3).
There are at least three different characters that Paul had contact with
during his time there. There was a wealthy
woman, Lydia, who was a seller of purple cloth who befriended Paul. There was a poor girl who caused Paul some
problems and a middle class prison guard from Rome that beat Paul. We see from this passage that Paul was
thankful for people from many different nationalities and many different levels
made it a practice to thank God for the people in this church. How many people were there? I have no idea. How many other churches did Paul express
similar ideas of thankfulness for? Don't
know exactly but I 'm sure he thanked God regularly for all of the churches he
was involved with. Was he thankful for
each and every person in each and every church?
Based on this verse and other aspects of his writings, I would guess
that yes, he did. He wouldn't have said
this to the Philippians if it wasn't true.
Thankfulness wasn't a spotty, hit and miss type of exercise for Paul; it
was his regular practice for all of the churches and all of the believers that
was also thankful for his present ministry.
(v. 4). One of the most
astounding aspects of Paul's ministry to this church was the ministry of prayer
that he engaged in concerning them for the overall welfare of their lives.
prayer for this church was personal. He
didn't go to God and just simply offer up some sort of blanket prayer for
everyone, everywhere. Paul knew these
people. He knew them by name; he knew
what they looked like; he knew what they did for a living; he knew how they
acted. He had lived with these people, so
when he prayed, it was a personal and a heartfelt prayer born out of the
personal and heartfelt relationship he had with them.
prayer for this church was also a privilege.
He didn't look at prayer as some sort of duty that he had to perform. It wasn't his mentality that he should pray,
so why not just go through the motions throw some things up to the sky and see
what happens. Paul felt privileged to be
able to come to the throne of God and with joy in his heart pray for these dear
prayer was also very practical. It was
his constant practice of making requests for these people. Whenever he prayed, and it would have been
often, he lifted up each and every church that he started where he knew the
people involved. Since he knew them, and
because the prayers were personal, he could be practical and actually pray for
specific things that they each needed.
His prayers were personal, a privilege and practical.
saw himself as partnering with this church.
Just like he considered Timothy to be a co-worker and a co-slave in the
work of God's kingdom, he also considered himself to be a partner with the
church in Philippi. He knew that no one can do it all by themselves. He knew that he needed other believers to
help him do the work God had called him to do.
He recognized that in the Philippians and reminded them that he was truly
grateful for the work they were doing alongside of him.
key aspect of being able to partner together with this church was the
fellowship they shared together.
Fellowship is the Greek word koninoia.
It means, "sharing, association and fellow feeling". We need to work together to help advance the
cause of Christ. We need fellowship to
help enable us to grow and be complete.
1 John 3:4 says, "We know that we have passed from death to life
because we love the brethren." And
in 1 Peter 4:8 we find, "And above all things, have fervent love for one
another." We need fellowship with
other believers in order to effectively partner with them as we help advance
God's kingdom together.
want to close this morning by reading an excerpt from a newsletter that we got
just this past week. It's from Thierry
and Tina at the Hope for Tomorrow ministry in Rwanda, Africa. This is where our secretary Marilyn went in
August for her missions trip. When I
first read this story it broke my heart and convicted my spirit. I think that it perfectly sums up what our
attitude should be towards the things that God has given us in life.
grandpa, 86 and grandma in her 70's had 7 children, two of which are still
alive. Their daughter lives with them to
help them, but her husband died, and she has two small children. None have been to school and it all is on
her. If she finds some small job to do,
they eat that day, if not, they don't.
The grandfather has disfigured legs, is going blind, and deaf. They sleep on the dirt and lately with the rain
and a leaky roof, in the mud. If no one
is there to help the grandfather, he must sit in the mud till someone comes
home to help him.
decided to give them porridge, sugar and milk weekly, with the moms. When we told them this, they literally went
to their knees' in utter joy and exclaimed, "This is the day I know God
has heard by prayers!" When we gave
them some clothes that people in the States have donated, the daughter prayed
they wouldn't be prideful for such fine things and blessings."
is all about perspective. It's all about
how we view the blessings that we have received from God. I would encourage you this next week as you
celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, that you remember these poor
people from Rwanda and what their attitude and mindset and reaction was towards
some very simple, basic provisions. How
thankful would you be for porridge, sugar and milk? Maybe your attitude needs to change.
our musicians come now, we invite you to develop a truly thankful heart for all
of the blessings that God has given to you.
Thank Him for Jesus; for salvation; for forgiveness; for spiritual
growth; for a church family; for fellowship with believers; for all of the
blessings and comforts that we enjoy as Americans. Thank you Lord. If you need to share anything with us this
morning, or make any sort of public profession, we invite you to do that now as
we stand and sing.
Make a free website with Yola